Supreme Court Ruling Alters Criteria for Probable Cause

Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts determined that in order for police to obtain a warrant to search a residence for illegal marijuana possession or cultivation, they must first be able to prove that the occupants of the dwelling are not properly registered to engage in such activities.

The latest judgment by the state’s highest court, making it unlawful for police in medical marijuana states to use evidence of a home grow as the sole basis for obtaining a search warrant, is in response to a 2013 case in which the defendant Josiah H. Canning was busted for illegally cultivating approximately 70 plants inside his home. The ruling found that while law enforcement may have previously used certain criteria as a means for establishing probable cause, the state’s newfound medical marijuana laws now discount these variables as grounds for suspected criminal activity…

Maryland Man Gets 20 Years for 6 Grams of Weed

Perhaps the latest casualty in the War on Drugs is Ronald Tyrone Hammond Jr., who was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for possession of less than six grams of marijuana…

Although Hammond’s new attorney, Lisa Gladden, pointed out to the court that aside from his marijuana offense he had been on his best behavior, the judge disputed the argument.

“This court understands that marijuana is not the crime of the century,” Stewart-Mays said. “And the court understands that somehow, some way, not that I agree or disagree… that marijuana has become a little more accepted. However, when you are on probation, your freedoms are restricted. So what may be commonly accepted for one, you can’t do, because you’re on probation.” …

“Sending somebody to prison for $40 of cocaine and not enough marijuana to build a joint seems unfathomable,” Mary Price, general counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said. Especially, since the Maryland Legislature recently passed a law making the possession of anything less than 10 grams of pot a civil infraction with a $100 fine penalty…

Jamaica’s National Security Minister Says Decriminalization Is Working

Ever since Jamaica made the decision earlier this year to decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, National Security Minister Peter Bunting claims the hostility that once brewed between its citizens and law enforcement due to decades of prohibition has given way to an overall peaceful community and a significant reduction in drug-related arrests…

Animal abuser registries spreading in New York, elsewhere

In Newburgh, N.Y., they just passed a law called “Rocky’s Law” named for a dog that was subjected to freezing temperatures when he was tethered in the snow for five weeks while his owner went on vacation. The dog had to be euthanized due to his injuries…

Don’t Punish Pain

Not too long ago, someone alerted me to a video making the rounds on Facebook that took aim at people who go to the ER for pain medication. The video looked very professional, and the re-worked lyrics were set to a Taylor Swift song, “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” It’s a horrible video though, in that it perpetuates the stereotype that anyone who goes to the ER for pain medication is a junkie.

Having suffered from cluster headaches, and with my wife suffering from Crohn’s disease, I can say from first-hand experience that this is simply not the case. There are millions of people who live with chronic illness, be it Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Interstitial Cystitis, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or any of a host of other so-called invisible illnesses. There are times when the ER may be the only option for any kind of pain relief, and to demonize those who suffer so much pain already is absolutely ludicrous.

Therefore, I could not let this video go unanswered.

What follows is something very different from what I normally do as far as educational chronic illness videos go. For better or for worse, it is me singing on the vocal track; and yes, I wrote all the new lyrics. Don’t worry, I didn’t try to sing along to a Taylor Swift song. Rather, I chose one from one of my wife’s favorite bands, the Gin Blossoms.

I hope that this might serve as a counterpoint to that well-produced but ill-considered video that so many people think is an accurate representation of those who present at the ER with intractable pain.


Under comments:

Stephanie Hughes:  Oh thank you for this! I have been commenting directly with the person who produced that awful video, and there is zero compassion… all he sees is the bad, so he paints all pain patients with the same wide brush. Thank you for all you do Ken… I know it’s tough, but it gives us a voice

Uber driver raises money for new billboard after attack on gay marriage

Ferman has created a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 to place a billboard in the same area to support equality of others no matter their sexual orientation. He said he wanted to use this negativity to bring about change in the community.

“We aren’t just gay. We’re all just humans like everyone else in this world,” he said.

So far, $2,000 has been raised and Ferman said any additional money will be donated to the nonprofits Human Rights Campaign and the NOH8 Campaign.

“I’m not trying to play Superman. I’m just a struggling college student with aspirations to make a difference with all of the positive publicity I’m receiving,” he said. “I would like to say thank you to everyone for being so supportive.”

To donate, visit

Duke Energy will be in federal court for coal ash crimes

Duke is scheduled to plead guilty Thursday to nine environmental crimes as part of a negotiated settlement with federal prosecutors requiring it to pay $102 million in fines and restitution. The proposed settlement over years of illegal pollution leaking from ash dumps at five of Duke’s plants has been sealed, so it wasn’t clear before the hearing whether people with contaminated well water will benefit.

The company’s Buck Steam Station is not one of the five plants in the negotiated settlement. But nearly three dozen homes surrounding Buck — an area called Dukeville — have received letters warning them not to drink the water…

Duke has long denied its 32 dumps in the state have contaminated the drinking water of its neighbors, suggesting any worrying chemicals found in the wells is likely naturally occurring.

But recent state-mandated tests found that more than 150 residential wells tested near Duke’s dumps have failed to meet state groundwater standards, and residents have been advised not to use their water for drinking or cooking.

Many of the results showed troublesome levels of toxic heavy metals like vanadium and hexavalent chromium — both of which can be contained in coal ash…

Nationally, there are more than 1,100 such dumps, most located near aging coal-fired power plants…

After denying wrongdoing for years, Duke recently conceded in regulatory filings that it had identified about 200 leaks and seeps at its 32 coal ash dumps statewide, which together ooze out more than 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater each day…

“Breathing dust can cause disease and drastically decrease the quality of life for communities along the fenceline of coal ash dump sites,” said co-author Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel at Earthjustice. “We know coal ash is poisoning our water, and now we also know that it’s poisoning our air as well.”

An estimated 36 percent of coal ash produced in the U.S. is disposed of in dry landfills, usually at the power plant site where it’s generated, while about 21 percent is stored in wet impoundments. But even wet impoundments can lead to airborne coal ash problems through mismanagement, especially in dry climates.

The report highlights six communities threatened by airborne coal ash dust. Three of them are in the South…

The other communities that the report looks at are in Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Most of the cases raise environmental justice concerns. For example, 90 percent of the residents of Uniontown, Alabama are African American, and 45.2 percent live below the poverty line. Many residents of the community near Louisville’s Cane Run plant live in trailers and mobile homes. The coal ash dumpsite at issue in Nevada is only 300 yards from the ancestral home of a band of Paiute Indians, while the New Mexico site is on a Navajo reservation where a quarter of the residents lack access to electricity even while living with its toxic waste…

Marijuana Farming Is A Constitutional Right? It Just May Be

Right-to-farm laws exist in all fifty states, in some form or another, either by statute, constitutional amendment, or both… Though right-to-farm laws are by no means new, from what we can tell this is the first time a defendant in a criminal marijuana case has attempted to use a state right-to-farm law as an affirmative defense to criminal charges for cultivating marijuana…

Marijuana and Driving


Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area

The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado:  The Impact (August 2013)

Funny how this group only measures the negative impacts of marijuana legalization, without looking at any of the positives — like a decrease in the suicide rate or the number of chronic pain patients who have reduced their use of opioids or no longer take them.  Or maybe even the number of cancer patients who live longer because of cannabis, and the amount of people who are preventing cancer or Alzheimer’s with cannabis use.

This is the first report and foundational for future reports. It is divided into six sections with each providing data on the impact of legalization prior to and during the creation of the medical marijuana industry in Colorado. Generally, except for diversion of Colorado marijuana, there is limited data for 2012 and 2013…

This section provides information on driving fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana. The data comparison will be from 2006 through 2011. Data for 2012, and partial year 2013, was not available for this report. The information compares what will be referred to as the early medical marijuana era (2006 – 2008) and the medical marijuana expansion era (2009 – 2011) in Colorado…


• Traffic fatalities in Colorado decreased 16 percent, from 2006 to 2011, which is consistent with national trends. During the same six years in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for just marijuana increased 114 percent.

Like the statistics that allegedly show the number of overdoses involving opioids, when you look at the word “involving” or “related,” it means you’re not looking at the whole picture.

• In 2006 in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for marijuana represented 5 percent of the total traffic fatalities. By 2011, that percent more than doubled to 13 percent.

Compared to the number of traffic fatalities that involve alcohol, 13% for cannabis is very low. And you can’t just look at alcohol and marijuana — where’s the information for all the prescription drugs that America takes?  I’m not only talking about pain and anti-anxiety medications, as all prescription drugs have some effect on a person’s driving ability.

• In 2006, drivers testing positive for marijuana were involved in 28 percent of fatal vehicle crashes involving drugs. By 2011 that number had increased to 56 percent.

• From 2006 – 2011, drivers testing positive for marijuana involved in fatal vehicle crashes more than doubled in those six years.

You can look at percentages like this, or you can look at the overall percentages for marijuana and driving, which are small compared to other drugs.

These statistics are from the Colorado Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which says that, “Data only includes drivers who were tested for drugs and results that were reported to CDOT.”

This report is from 2013, but here is one from 2014 from the Colorado Department of Transportation:

Click to access Full%20Prob%20ID_2014.FINAL_.pdf

In 2012, the total number of motor vehicle fatalities in Colorado increased for the first time in six years, after steadily declining between 2007 and 2011. There were 472 motor vehicle fatalities in 2012, a 5.6 percent increase in fatalities from 2011. The increase in motor vehicle fatalities was not unique to Colorado, as the United States overall experienced a 3.3 percent increase in motor vehicle fatalities from 2011 to 2012.

In order to reach the goals set forth in the Colorado Department of Transportation’s 2014 Integrated Safety Plan, it is imperative to stop the recent increases in fatalities and then once again decrease fatalities. Data from 2012 indicate that Colorado has the following three key problem areas:

• Speeding-related fatalities;
• Unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities; and
• Alcohol impaired driver fatalities.

Driving while impaired by marijuana: In 2013, voters approved a state constitutional amendment legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for people at least 21 years old in Colorado. Since recreational marijuana sales began January 1, 2014, Coloradans are concerned about the impacts of driving while impaired by drugs. While there is minimal data on driving while impaired by drugs available to present in this report, and none specific to marijuana, the Colorado Department of Transportation is actively monitoring this issue…

Does “drugs” only include marijuana?  Sounds like discrimination to me.

The core issue for researchers and law enforcement alike is the lack of hard data to identify cannabis-impaired drivers, as opposed to alcohol-induced impairment, during highway stops. To date, the only method is by blood analysis carried out by a toxicology lab—either by court order or through a coroner’s office. That means that most research on cannabis as a contributing cause of fatal crashes is based on post-mortem examination.

A post-mortem examination will not show that a driver was impaired by marijuana.  In fact, a blood test doesn’t show that either, considering that marijuana stays in your system, stored in your fat cells, for weeks or months after consumption.  But just because it stays in your system, that doesn’t mean you’re impaired or that it has any kind of negative effect.  From what I’ve read, it appears that there are actually quite a number of benefits when marijuana stays in your system past the time of consumption, like anti-inflammatory effects and maybe even as a preventative for Alzheimer’s and the growth of tumors.

According to Trooper Nate Reid of the Colorado State Patrol Media and Education office, who took The Mountain Times’ call, the use of saliva strips is now being tested. In the meantime, he stated, all officers receive training to detect drug use by watching for behavioral cues.

Again, the amount of THC that shows up in one of these tests will not prove one way or another whether the driver was impaired by marijuana.  A high-THC strain would impair a novice user, but not a chronic pain patient.  Also consider that the amount of CBDs in whichever strain is used can alter (decrease) the effect of the THC, and I’m sure these tests will only show THC levels, not CBD levels.

Amy Ford of the Colorado Department of Transportation, acknowledged the “challenge related to data collection,” in a recent phone interview with The Mountain Times, saying that police identification of marijuana-related causes is imprecise, and that this is now a “huge priority” for the state. One key goal for the Colorado State Patrol is to increase the number of DRE’s to cover the state…

I’d say that “imprecise” is an understatement.


An avalanche of unnecessary medical care is harming patients physically and financially. What can we do about it?

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine issued a report stating that waste accounted for thirty per cent of health-care spending, or some seven hundred and fifty billion dollars a year, which was more than our nation’s entire budget for K-12 education. The report found that higher prices, administrative expenses, and fraud accounted for almost half of this waste. Bigger than any of those, however, was the amount spent on unnecessary health-care services…

My friend Bruce told me what happened when his eighty-two-year-old father developed fainting episodes… The doctors recommended doing a three-vessel cardiac-bypass operation as soon as possible, followed, a week or two later, by surgery to open up one of his carotid arteries… The team told him that the combined procedures posed clear risks to his father—for instance, his chance of a stroke would be around fifteen per cent—but that the procedures had become very routine, and the doctors were confident that they were far more likely to be successful than not.

It didn’t occur to Bruce until later to question what the doctors meant by “successful.” The blockages weren’t causing his father’s fainting episodes or any other impairments to his life. The operation would not make him feel better. Instead, “success” to the doctors meant reducing his future risk of a stroke…

Bruce’s father had a stroke during the cardiac surgery… A week later, Bruce’s father recovered his ability to talk, although much of what he said didn’t make sense. But he had at least survived. “We’re going to put this one in the win column,” Bruce recalls the surgeon saying.

“I said, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ ”

His dad had to move into a nursing home. “He was only half there mentally,” Bruce said. Nine months later, his father died. That is what low-value health care can be like…

I’m a fan of the radio show “Car Talk” (which ceased taping in 2012 but still airs in reruns), and a regular concern of callers who sought the comic but genuine advice of its repair-shop-owning hosts, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, was whether they were getting snookered by car mechanics into repairs they didn’t need.

“There’s no question we have considerable up-selling in the industry,” Ray told me when I reached him by phone. “Quickie-lube places are the worst for this. I won’t name names, but they tend to have the word ‘lube’ in them.” He let out that nyuk-nyuk-nyuk laugh he has. “You can’t make money on a $29.95 oil change. So they try to sell you on a lot of stuff. First level, they sell you something you don’t need but at least doesn’t hurt. Second level, they do some real damage mucking around.” …

Excessive testing is a problem for a number of reasons. For one thing, some diagnostic studies are harmful in themselves—we’re doing so many CT scans and other forms of imaging that rely on radiation that they are believed to be increasing the population’s cancer rates…

Nationwide, we spend more money on spinal fusions, for instance, than on any other operation—thirteen billion dollars in 2011…

Specialists not only made money from the services they provided; many also owned stakes in home-health-care agencies, surgery and imaging centers, and the local for-profit hospital, which brought them even bigger returns from health-care overuse…

Several federal prosecutions cracked down on outright fraud. Seven doctors agreed to a twenty-eight-million-dollar settlement for taking illegal kickbacks when they referred their patients to specialty medical services. An ambulance-company owner was indicted for reporting six hundred and twenty-one ambulance rides that allegedly never happened. Four clinic operators were sent to jail for billing more than thirteen thousand visits and procedures under the name of a physician with dementia…

One of the categories I chose for this post is Addiction, because to me, it seems like there are a lot of doctors who are addicted to money.